Ernie Hunt – from Bert’s babes to that famous free kick
Well – here we are with another of Swindon’s offspring and an entry in to the much under-loved This Sporting Life category to boot. A football boot at that. Listeners I give you, Swindon Footballer Ernie Hunt!
One of Bert’s Babes
Born the son of a speedway rider, Roger Patrick, AKA Ernie, Hunt entered this world in Swindon on 17 March 1943. Ernie was under the employ of British Rail when, in 1957, Swindon Town signed him on amateur forms.
His debut game came on 15 September 1959 in a 3–0 defeat to Grimsby Town in Division Three. At the age of 16 years and 182 days Ernie became Swindon’s youngest ever first team player – a record that stood until 1980 when a younger player broke it.
Further, he comprised one of many young players to develop under the tutelage of Bert Head, the Swindon manager. The list comprised the auspicious likes of Mike Summerbee, John Trollope, Rod Thomas and Don Rogers.
At length, Head moved on to manage Crystal Palace taking them to the top flight for the the first time in their history, since 1969.
Ernie signed as a professional in March 1960, becoming the top goal scorer for four consecutive years. In so doing he helped the team win promotion to Division Two in 1963. He played three times for the England Under 23 squad.
A hungry wolf
When Swindon suffered relegation at the end of the 1964-65 season, he joined Division Two Wolverhampton Wanderers for a then record fee of £40,000, having scored 88 goals in 237 games for the Town. He was top scorer when Wolves achieved promotion to the top flight in 1966/67.
A brief spell on Merseyside – then sent to Coventry
Ernie only played a few more games for Wolves before Everton bought him in September 1967 for £80,000. Unfortunately, he didn’t settle on Merseyside and was sold to Coventry City for £65,000 in March 1968. There he helped Coventry to narrowly avoid relegation on the last day of the season. He holds an unusual record of having played against the same team for three different teams in a season, turning out for Wolves at Fulham’s Craven Cottage in August 1967, Everton in September, and Coventry in April 1968.
That free kick
Ernie found himself the fan’s favourite in his five years at Highfield Road where he scored forty-five goals in 146 games. Yet, he’ll always be remembered for scoring Match of the Day’s Goal of the Season in October 1970, ironically against Everton. Willie Carr gripped the ball between his heels then flicked up for Ernie to volley it into the far corner. The move, the donkey kick, got outlawed at the end of the season. His obituary in the Coventry Telegraph describes him as such a fans’ favourite that Coventry had to stop the round the pitch parades on their Legends’ Day. This because the ovation for Ernie went on so long it delayed the start of the second half.
The final chapters
Ernie ended his professional career at Bristol City in the 1973/74 season. After football, he did a number of jobs including widow cleaning (he fell off the ladder and broke 8 ribs) and running a pub in Ledbury. In his obituary the author said that Ernie had told him that the latter was like giving an arsonist the matches.
He died in 2018 June in a Gloucester care home.
Rodbourne history group have a fab archive image of Ernie Hunt, aka the Demon Barber of Swindon, here doing some haircutting. It shows him with Bob Woodruff and Mike Summerbee.
I’m told that Ernie and Mike Summerbee were good friends who, in their early days, did grave digging at Christ Church to supplement their meagre pay.
In related posts see also:
And the Nervi football stand that got away: